The gourmet snack business that adapted to selling online during lockdown

In our 30 Second Interview, we are talking to businesses which have either been built during the pandemic or changed their business model to cope. This week, founder Laura Jackson answers quickfire questions on Popcorn Shed.

How and when did the business start?

My cousin, Sam Feller, and I launched Popcorn Shed in 2016.

We came up with the idea for Popcorn Shed during a trip to the US, where we discovered gourmet popcorn. On returning to the UK, we realised that great tasting and high quality popcorn was not easy to source – and spotted a gap in the mainstream market.

Both of us gave up high-flying city jobs to pursue our passion for baking and creating, something we’ve been doing together since we were old enough to reach the magimix.

Taking this risk has certainly paid off, with us seeing big growth and profits doubling year on year. We have gained listings with well known UK retailers such as John Lewis, Selfridges, Harrods, Ocado and the Co-op.

What impact has Covid-19 had on you?

‘We came up with the idea for Popcorn Shed during a trip to the US, where we discovered gourmet popcorn’ (Photo: Popcorn Shed)

Before Covid-19, most of our business was wholesale, B2B and direct to cinemas, shops, distributors, travel retail, food service etc.

Almost overnight this revenue stream went quiet as traditional customers closed their doors.

What have you done to adapt?

We had to act fast and were forced to focus all our efforts into improving and directing traffic to our online channels, as well as moving to a more business-to-consumer model.

In the first few days after lockdown, we had to completely up-skill ourselves to adapt quickly, in order to reach a different customer. Suddenly we were learning how to use Facebook and Google adverts, which we hadn’t really used previously.

We redistributed our budget from product development into online advertising, which meant we had to keep a keen eye on our cash flow – the cloud accounting software Xero really helped us with managing this.

How do you think the pandemic will change your industry?

In the short term, it has already affected us because of the reduction in sales from our food service and export accounts. However, in the long term, I believe those sales will go back to normal. I think the focus on selling food and drink online is here to stay.

I don’t see how trade shows will go back to how they were for a while, due to the travel involved, so I think more creative ways to connect and meet will have to be used.

What do you see happening in the next five years?

I always find this question really hard to answer, particularly in these uncertain times. However, I hope that Popcorn Shed continues on its strong growth trajectory, with deeper market penetration and expansion diversification – constantly pushing boundaries.

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